by Sam Smith

Leaping Tiger: What’s That He Said?

by Sam Smith

Leaping Tiger: What’s That He Said?

It’s green and it’s Gooey, and it comes with a parental advisory – making it sound very much like the kind of slimey, tactile substance lucky kids all over the country find in their Christmas stockings. Bad Santa. But good Leaping Tiger, whose sticky-to-the-ear electronic soul single Gooey is currently being played on student radios nationwide. Sam Smith grabbed the tiger’s tale from musician/producer Jacob Park. Made with the support of NZ On Air.

Leaping Tiger is the name of Auckland musician Jacob Park’s electronic project, a project which has been gaining steady momentum both on and off stage over the last two years. 

Park is a multi-instrumentalist and producer whose musical origins go right back to an early age, thanks to being part of a musical family.

“It was mostly my nana. She got me into playing piano when I was extremely young, I think I started when I was four. And on my dad’s side; my dad plays saxophone, and then my grandad is a bass player. So it all just kind of started from there.”

As he grew up Park progressed to other instruments, including flute and later the bass guitar, which is now his primary instrument alongside the keys. It was this branching out which saw him join a band in high school. The Burtones, as they were called, went on to compete in the Smokefree Rockquest, making the regional finals in 2015 playing a mixture of ska, reggae, and RnB. 

After school, Park studied composition at university, and it was here he decided to put the Leaping Tiger project into action after he initially began playing around with production at school. 

Named after the martial arts film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Leaping Tiger offered an outlet for Park to expand his musical horizons and go forward in the electronic music realm. 

“I made the decision that this is what I wanted to do. I always went to uni knowing this is what I’m going to do, and I kind of always planned to never really finish uni as well. It was kind of just a stepping stone.

“I wanted a name that sounded like Flying Lotus, and I really love martial arts movies as well. One of my favourite movies is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, and I was going to go with Crouching Tiger, but I thought that would be kind of too on the nose. So I just changed it from crouching to leaping.” 

Although his Leaping Tiger is rooted in electronic music, at the same time it’s hard to truly pinpoint Park’s style of music, something he himself acknowledges. 

“I just say electronic because it is so broad and clear. It is electronic music, I make it on a laptop. But yeah, I guess you could say it is just eclectic, pseudo experimental dance music.”

“My influences are definitely super varied, it’s almost like each song is influenced by a different person. But I think on a broad scale, it’s got to be Flying Lotus, Thundercat, Floom, Arca, Sophie, Bjork… that kind of vibe.”

As Leaping Tiger, Park has developed a reputation as a strong live performer and his sets have been well received in packed out clubs and bars around Auckland. Part of this is due to how Park sets up his performances in a way that is about creating an experience for the listeners. 

“I value the live shows so much, out of everything that I do. I probably value shows as much as the recordings themselves. It’s all about creating that world that the music lives in and then making an experience where you can go and experience this music in a certain way. I think that is very important.

“I never want anyone to come to one of my shows and not remember it, even if they thought it sucked. I want them to remember it, at least, and just be like, well, it was kind of crazy.”

If you have been lucky enough to witness a Leaping Tiger set, Park takes centre stage with his loops, often chopping and changing between bass guitar and keys, at times calling on a vocalist or two for support. 

“I kind of make it my objective for every show that I play to just take over. I kind of transform into a cult-like leader a bit and just sort of make the audience submit, I guess, in a way!”

However, with limited opportunities to perform as New Zealand battles another Covid outbreak, Park has turned his attention to recording a new album. 

Called ‘Soulsleep’, the album was recorded in his bedroom and will witness a further evolution in the Leaping Tiger sound. 

“I started it pretty much right after ‘Porcelain Orca Whales’ came out , and I have kind of slowly been chipping away at it pretty much literally in my bedroom at 2am, lying down, just clicking away.”

“I went into this one with an actual goal, I guess, to make the sonic identity of this project unique and something cohesive, playing across the whole thing. So I’ve used a lot of the same sounds in a lot of the songs on this project.”

Park has also explored singing and writing songs on this record, with the single Gooey a good example of his development as a musician. 

“It was definitely something different for me. That’s the first time that I’ve ever sung or written a song before with words. That was interesting, something new.”

Park does still calls on some friends to provide vocals, as was the case on his previous record. ‘Soulsleep’ features the likes of Maxwell Young, Levina and Imugi, with Park fortunate he can just shoulder tap who he wants with full confidence they will deliver something special. 

“I’m very calculated. So when I’m making a song, I’m making it with someone in mind, and so I know who it’s for and why it’s for them. And then I will hit them up, and it’s usually a friend, and so more often than not, they will say yes. And then I just let them go and do whatever they want over it because I will be such a fan of their work and already know how they do things, so that whatever they bring back I know will be what I want.”

As for the future? Well, it is more of the same and then some for Park, who is not lacking in musical ambition. 

“I’d love to just keep working more with other people. I really want to produce a whole project for someone. I think that would be really cool. Either like a rap project or an R&B thing. I would also love to score movies as well.” 

The sky’s the limit really for this Leaping Tiger. 

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